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Trial By Jury:

Pronounced YAK-you-luss
So there's been rumblings for a while about the pros and cons of trial by jury in several countries' legal systems. Unfortunately, I don't have much information on precisely what is being debated (the old problem of there being so much information on the Internet that I don't know where to begin). As a result, this thread is about three things:

  • What are the alternatives to trial by jury?
  • What are their pros and cons relative to what we've already got?
  • Finally, taking the above two questions into account, do you think we should stick with trial by jury as-is, or adopt one of the other options?

Thoughts, anyone?
Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
 2 USAF713, Mon, 12th Dec '11 1:24:30 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
The only issue I take with trials by jury is the problem of jury nullification, which I would (attempt to) solve by adding an impartial third-party lawyer into the deliberations who wouldn't actually participate, but who would observe to see what the juries are basing their decisions are on, so the judge can overrule bad verdicts made on the basis of emotion rather than what the law actually reads...
I am now known as Flyboy.
 3 L Mage, Mon, 12th Dec '11 1:44:47 PM from Miss Robichaux's Academy Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Evil Trickster
^ I don't think so, the whole point of a jury is to bring the human element into the law, to have some base subjective humanity in which to test the premise of a case.

For example: say a ignorant 15 teen year old girl break into a shop because she is pregnant and signed a contract to sell her baby against her will. She steals the contract back burns it, but causes property damage. She flees but is caught by the police and arrested. The owner of the shop and the one she was coerced into signing the contract for presses charges for breaking and entering, and destroying property.

Should she be convicted? No of course not, but within the letter of the law she had done a wrong thing and was guilty. But she was a scared, terrified teenager afraid of losing her child.

There’s a reason for the phrase "No jury in the world would convict" because without the law being held accountable to base human standard, it becomes a force wholly onto itself with no morals, emotions, or compassion, whose only responsibility is not to the people it is supposed to protect but rather its own rules. Also, giving a judge the power to overrule a jury's verdict defeats the purpose of a jury, which is supposed to be that twelve reasonable and impartial individuals that are peers to the accused can be convinced under fair play and truth that a person is or is not guilty of a crime. Allowing a judge to overturn a Jury's verdict because they believe it was made for the wrong reasons is tantamount to granting absolute power to a single person over the proceedings.
"You are never taller then when standing up for yourself"
The most obvious alternative to a jury trial is a bench trial (which you can request in the US by waving your right to a jury).
 
 5 Excelion, Mon, 12th Dec '11 1:53:06 PM from The Fatherland
No thanks, I'd rather have people who actually know shit about the law give the final sentence, and not random hillbillies easily swayed by emotion and bias.

edited 12th Dec '11 1:53:21 PM by Excelion

 6 USAF713, Mon, 12th Dec '11 1:58:33 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
I don't think so, the whole point of a jury is to bring the human element into the law, to have some base subjective humanity in which to test the premise of a case.

Not really. A jury is designed to prevent the state from abusing the court system to arbitrarily jail people.

For example: say a ignorant 15 teen year old girl break into a shop because she is pregnant and signed a contract to sell her baby against her will. She steals the contract back burns it, but causes property damage. She flees but is caught by the police and arrested. The owner of the shop and the one she was coerced into signing the contract for presses charges for breaking and entering, and destroying property.

Should she be convicted? No of course not, but within the letter of the law she had done a wrong thing and was guilty. But she was a scared, terrified teenager afraid of losing her child.

Firstly, how often is such an absurd situation going to happen in reality? Secondly, she probably should be convicted; she did destroy property, after all. I, as a prosecutor, would probably charge her with a misdemeanor with probation, though, because yes, that (highly unlikely) situation wouldn't be fair at all.

Now, the baby brokers, on the other hand, I would nail to a wall...

Also, giving a judge the power to overrule a jury's verdict defeats the purpose of a jury, which is supposed to be that twelve reasonable and impartial individuals that are peers to the accused can be convinced under fair play and truth that a person is or is not guilty of a crime. Allowing a judge to overturn a Jury's verdict because they believe it was made for the wrong reasons is tantamount to granting absolute power to a single person over the proceedings.

Not really. The judge would only be able to overrule such things for legal technicalities, and ideally it would simply result in a mistrial, not any kind of reversal of verdict (i.e. the judge couldn't say "guilty/not guilty, " only "do over"). Besides, you can always appeal it.
I am now known as Flyboy.
 7 L Mage, Mon, 12th Dec '11 2:09:44 PM from Miss Robichaux's Academy Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Evil Trickster
[up] Have you ever seen 12 Angry Men? Just wondering.

edited 12th Dec '11 2:11:32 PM by LMage

"You are never taller then when standing up for yourself"
 8 USAF713, Mon, 12th Dec '11 2:13:49 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Nope.
I am now known as Flyboy.
There’s a reason for the phrase "No jury in the world would convict" because without the law being held accountable to base human standard, it becomes a force wholly onto itself with no morals, emotions, or compassion, whose only responsibility is not to the people it is supposed to protect but rather its own rules.
Letting emotion have that much influence isn't necessarily better, though.
"I even like the idea of a nice man who sees me when I'm sleeping and knows when I'm awake. And that man is Barack Obama." - Bill Maher
 10 Mandemo, Mon, 12th Dec '11 2:22:23 PM from Cookie Jar Relationship Status: Above such petty unnecessities
GIMME COOKIES!
L Mage, in such case the original treaty would be null since it's basicly huamn traficking and the asshole who forces said girl into it will go into jail.

Also, laws usualy have thing or two when person is held accountable. Pregnant 15 year girl, forced to sell her unborn child, is going to end up with verdict "out of her mind, not accountable". So yeah, your analogy really doesn't hold water.
@ L Mage

Your example doesn't work in my country anyways. Is a judge not capable of saying "not guilty"/"acquitted"?

@ Thread

I prefer to have less trial by jury and more panel of judges. Judges aren't swayed by top notch lawyers as much, are less prone to bribery and intimidation and have more knowledge of the law and also the experience to apply it. Afterall, Supreme Court trials are by judge not jury, so why would we think that given the most important cases in the country are done by judges but for normal people, juries are okay?

The concept is an outdated system from ancient times based on assumptions that are no longer valid (ie. there being no such thing as a judge, jurors are less bribe-able etc). If your peers are a bunch of racists, or drooling foolbags, that would generally damage the justice system, not improve it.

 12 The Earth Sheep, Mon, 12th Dec '11 3:26:10 PM from a Pasture hexagon
Christmas Sheep
It democratizes the courts, which can only be a good thing. It makes corruption less likely.

As with any democratic system, it hinges on the average person's education, but if people don't meet the standards of education, that's the people's fault, not the system's.
Still Sheepin'
 13 L Mage, Mon, 12th Dec '11 3:56:25 PM from Miss Robichaux's Academy Relationship Status: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
Evil Trickster
Letting emotion have that much influence isn't necessarily better, though.

No not necessarily. But that’s why the system as it is now is good.

L Mage, in such case the original treaty would be null since it's basicly huamn traficking and the asshole who forces said girl into it will go into jail.

Also, laws usualy have thing or two when person is held accountable. Pregnant 15 year girl, forced to sell her unborn child, is going to end up with verdict "out of her mind, not accountable". So yeah, your analogy really doesn't hold water.

But the girl wouldn't know that. The point is that the girl would still be tried, and is technically guilty of committing a crime, but should not convict because of the extenuating circumstances. There is no legal reason for the jury not to convict her, so in the scenario where a third party lawyer makes it impossible for her to be acquitted based on human compassion.

Your example doesn't work in my country anyways. Is a judge not capable of saying "not guilty"/"acquitted"?

No, a judge rules over the process and directs the proceedings, he decides what is allowed to be set before the jury, what is admissible and not admissible etc. But ultimately in criminal cases unless the defendant waves their right to trial by jury then only a jury can convict or acquit. A judge can dismiss a case based on numerous factors however, but the defense or prosecution has to move for it, and when they do the person can still be charged and tried again.

"You are never taller then when standing up for yourself"
 14 USAF713, Mon, 12th Dec '11 4:02:28 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Can you cite an instance where your scenario actually happened in reality in a country with common law?

Furthermore, she'd never go to trial anyhow. She'd probably get a plea bargain so they could go after the bigger fish. No sane DA is going to go after her instead of a human trafficking ring...
I am now known as Flyboy.
 15 Blue Ninja 0, Mon, 12th Dec '11 4:20:40 PM from The Middle of Nowhere Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Plotting my Escape
What are the alternatives to trial by jury? - Iaculus
From my IANAL understanding, a single judge, or a panel of judges (normally 3 or 5), and the only alternatives.
What are their pros and cons relative to what we've already got? - Iaculus
Pros: Cheaper, less able to be swayed by cheap tactics of lawyers, less bitching and moaning about being forced to perform your civic duty, more knowledgable about the finer points of the law. Cons: More prone to systemic corruption, more of a separation between the law and the common man.
Finally, taking the above two questions into account, do you think we should stick with trial by jury as-is, or adopt one of the other options? - Iaculus
I think what we need to do is put some small modifications to trial by jury. Namely, devise a method to ensure greater equity in skill between the prosecution and defense, more sharply limit the number of people who can get out of or are dismissed from jury duty, reduce the number of people the lawyers can toss out of the jury pool, and greater oversight of judges to ensure there's no conflicts of interest. I would also like to see plea bargains justified to a jury (maybe a lesser jury of 6 or so?) before they can be accepted by the court.

A jury is designed to prevent the state from abusing the court system to arbitrarily jail people. - USAF
What this guy said. While it certainly makes for good movies and television, I hope that twelve people picked for major cases like murder, assault, etc, are actually carefully considering the evidence from both sides and not merely being swayed by emotion. Since the juries often have a hand in sentancing the accused, this is doubly important.
The mark of a place joining the civilised section of the Internet is when it starts banning people being assholes in their space-Silas W
 16 Clarste, Mon, 12th Dec '11 4:33:53 PM Relationship Status: Non-Canon
Three Steps
Afterall, Supreme Court trials are by judge not jury, so why would we think that given the most important cases in the country are done by judges but for normal people, juries are okay?

Juries handle matters of fact, judges handle matters of law. The original trial court is a "fact-finder" that determines what they believe to be true based on the evidence. Appeals courts are supposed to take what the trial court found to be true as inarguable and argue about matters of law instead. In other words, what the Supreme Court is doing is fundamentally different from what the lower courts are doing. Instead of arguing that X didn't do Y, they're arguing about whether or not Y should be illegal. There are of course some exceptions, such as the "no reasonable jury could possibly believe this" clause. Which I've always thought was kind of funny.

It democratizes the courts, which can only be a good thing.
Not necessarily. Tyranny by majority can be pretty dire too.
"I even like the idea of a nice man who sees me when I'm sleeping and knows when I'm awake. And that man is Barack Obama." - Bill Maher
I think you guys are confusing the US justice system to be what the justice system is like everywhere else. Judges act as the person who decides guilt as well in many common law countries. So, I don't think it proper to automatically assume that judges only decide matters of law or that the Supreme Court only decides whether something is legal or illegal, or that the Appeals Courts/Lower Courts only do the things you say they do because that's only in your one jurisdiction.

The presumption that systematic corruption is countered by increased democratisation (or that democratisation is somehow inherently better), I would disagree. America has referendums, Canada does not. Which country is far more corrupt? Corruption is not a function of democratisation and certainly not a function of it in such a specialised field. Do engineers put it to a jury vote whether a bridge will stand up and merely argue their point in a court of engineering? Certainly not. Only engineers decide it in a closed room.

Law, evidence, statistics and forensic science are extremely difficult subjects that require highly specialised knowledge that take years to gain in order to properly assess. Then we expect common joe to know what is going on? At best, they are uncorrupt and non-emotional. At worst, they plain don't understand what is happening and misinterpret the gravity of certain evidence.

I'm not saying that judges are somehow magically immune to corruption or whatever, but I think it better to improve the oversight of judges and judge trials than it is to waste time on jury trials that are inherently flawed from the beginning. There's no way, in my opinion, that a bunch of people who have zero background in figuring out the truth can figure out the truth under any system. They are simply not capable of doing the job they are tasked with.

edited 12th Dec '11 5:57:03 PM by breadloaf

 19 nightwyrm zero, Mon, 12th Dec '11 6:05:16 PM Relationship Status: Complex: I'm real, they are imaginary
^ So...maybe we need professional jurors?

Actually, I'm quite open to that idea. I would also appreciate more science in the justice system (like tracking what punishments actually work to reduce recidivism, or work programs that reduce it and so on). Both would matter to jurors who decide both on the gravity of the crime and of guilt/innocence/acquittal.

 21 De Marquis, Mon, 12th Dec '11 6:13:13 PM from Hell, USA Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
That is why, in the US system, we balance the power of the judge with the power of the jury, and vice versa. We dont trust any single source of authority, so we create checks and balances. Juries do not have a completely unrestricted scope to find anything they want. They have rules to follow, and the judge issues instructions regarding what they can consider, and what they cant. Breaking these rules is a potential cause for a mistrial. Yet guilt or innocence is inherently a matter of personal judgement, not the application of technical criteria. Guilt is dependent not only on actual behavior, but also intent and circumstances. We assume that only lay-people who claim to be the defendants peers (meaning they have no more societal authority or power than the defendant has) are able to properly judge those things. Yet their judgement must conform to the limits as set by law and interpreted by the judge. Check and balance.

Now, the system as we now have it may be flawed, but there are other ways to fix it. If emotion is the problem, it would be better to change the way that evidence is presented. Face to face presentations of witnesses and evidence are designed to depend on persuasion tactics, not empiricism. More formal methods depending on written transcripts of witness interviews and other media would produce more impartial decisions. The criteria for chosing a jury could be improved as well (we should be striving for representation of the widest diversity of views, not a mythical "impartial" juror).

My own personal view, unsupported by any research, is that the responsibilities assigned to the judge and the jury are exactly backwards. The fact of guilt or innocence should be a technical matter of law, but the extent to which the defendant deserves punishment should be more a matter of public interpretation. In other words, I wonder if the judicial process would have more credibility if the Judge determined guild and the Jury determined the punishment. But that's just my opinion.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”
 22 Drunk Girlfriend, Mon, 12th Dec '11 7:51:45 PM from Castle Geekhaven
One of the good things about getting a jury trial is that it's less open to corruption. It's harder to grease the palms of twelve guys that are randomly picked from a hat than it is to bribe one guy who does this every day.

edited 12th Dec '11 7:52:27 PM by DrunkGirlfriend

"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
Technically, you just have to bribe one person to acquit and you will get a mistrial.
 
 24 Madrugada, Mon, 12th Dec '11 8:13:27 PM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
^ In some cases. Not all jury findings have to be unanimous.
...if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you for it.
Well, is that bar really that much higher compared to bribing a judge? Random guy off the street isn't likely to have a high bar compared to a judge's income (and the same potential for loss if they are found to have been bribed). Also like previously stated, you don't need to bribe everyone.

Also, what about juror intimidation? Isn't that a serious problem with gang or mob trials? How much better is it with judges compared to jurors in that case?

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